top of page
Tete-a-Tete; Franklin Abbott: Image

Tête-à-Tête: Franklin Abbott

The Wise Owl has a friendly chat with Franklin Abbott, a writer, poet, artist, gay activist and Psychotherapist by qualification. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950, Abbott earned an undergraduate degree at Mercer University and his Master of Social Work at the University of Georgia. The author of two books of poetry, Mortal Love: Selected Poems, 1971-1998 and Pink Zinnia (2009), he also edited three anthologies on men and gender: New Men, New Minds: Breaking Male Tradition (1987), Men and Intimacy: Personal Accounts of the Dilemmas of Modern Male Sexuality (1990), and Boyhood: Growing up Male (1993). In 2017, he released an CD of original songs and poetry, Don’t Go Back to Sleep. He co-founded the Atlanta Circle of Healing and established the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival.

Today, Franklin lives in Decatur, Georgia, where he continues to practice psychotherapy, write, and make music. His home is filled with memorabilia, souvenirs and photos of the places he’s travelled, and the rich cast of people he’s known.

Thank you so much Franklin for taking time out to talk to The Wise Owl.

Q. You have a multi-faceted persona, Franklin. You are a writer, a poet as well as a musician. Please tell us which creative process is closest to your heart and why.

A.  Being a poet is primary for me.  But poetry is music, at least in my ears, I have to hear the poem as I write it.

Q. Our readers would love to know the creative process that goes into your creations, be it poetry, creative non-fiction or music. Please tell us something about it, right from the time the concept/idea is conceived to the finished form.

A.  Again, I need to hear the words whether they are poems, lyrics or other modes of writing.  As a child, I loved to be read to.  I still enjoy hearing poetry read and stories told out loud.  With poems I follow my ear start to finish and then I go back and see if I have repeated words and that my intent is clear.  This comes from many years of writing and composing.

Q. Your poetry has a predominantly positive cadence that inspires and encourages the reader to take on the world, so to speak. I was reading your poems ‘A Blessing for Relationships’, ‘Everyday Miracles’, ‘Another Covenant’ et al. They all resound with a positive spirit which is very refreshing, especially when most writings today scratch the underbelly of emotions or life. Our readers would like to know how you sustain this positive spirit that ‘all is right with the world.’

A. I have written some poems on difficult themes as well but what sustains me is the magic and mystery of nature including our human nature.  Maybe I am writing to reassure myself, like singing myself a lullabye.

Q. In the Preface to your book ‘Pink Zinnia’ you talk about your writing group ‘The Ninth Muse’ where you say you comfort, cajole each other ‘to keep our fingers moving across keyboards, pens moving across paper.’ Although I have been a part of various writing groups, I find that most such groups are used as a platform to showcase the work of members rather than lend a supporting hand to other members of the group. Do tell us more about the working of ‘The Ninth Muse’, so we can all learn and contour our groups similarly.

A.  I have been a part of two writing groups.  'The Ninth Muse' was composed of me and five women friends who were all also therapists of some kind.  We all wanted to support each other and so our writing group was also a group of friends. I joined a men’s writing group a few years ago and it also was as much to support each other as writers as it was to critique each other’s works.  I favour writing groups that add personal support to critical feedback.

Q. I was listening to your album ‘Don’t go back to sleep.’ The rendition is as beautiful as your poem and the composition. And again, if I may add, it has a positivity emanating from it (you encourage listeners to ‘Open your heart and start singing’ and talk about how ‘The door is open, wide open.’) I’m curious to know (as our readers would be) if this positivity emanates from your spirituality and faith in God?


A. The lyrics of the song were taken (with his kind permission) from Coleman Barks’ translations of the great Sufi poet Rumi.  One of the things I admire most about Rumi is his insistence on spirituality as an experience instead of a dogma.  I resonate with that deeply.

Q. Your album has set your poems to music. This needs the skill of a musician and a composer. Have you received any formal training in music or are you self-taught?

A.  I am self-taught.  I compose the music in my head and then work with trained musicians to transpose it.  I sing it to them and they play it back to me.  I have worked with some extremely gifted musicians.

Q. In your Preface to ‘Pink Zinnia’ (2009) you have expressed the opinion that self-publication is better than publishing through a well-known or respected but small publisher. Do you still hold that view? If so, why?

A.  In the United States the competition to publish is fierce.  This is because so many poets are also teaching in colleges and universities and need publication for tenure.  I am not an academic and so jumping through the hoops, waiting and waiting for a reply and then waiting again, sometimes for years for the book to be published just isn’t worth it to me.  And poetry is not lucrative.  There are no rich poets or even poets who make a living with poetry.

Q. A friend and Editor of ‘Khabar’ shared your poem, ‘the news is often unbearable’ which I enjoyed and connected with. I read somewhere that you still believe in the almost forgotten art of letter-writing and love to share poems and titbits like shells, feathers, dried flowers etc, so reminiscent of our childhood memorabilia. How do you keep up this in a world where everything has a shortened form (including brusque emails or social media posts)and emotions are expressed through emojis rather than words?

A. I am not as devoted to writing letters as I once was.  I have fallen under the spell of the Internet and enjoy the ease and immediacy of email.  I once carried on lots of correspondence and had many pen pals in other countries.  I saved all those letters and they are housed with my papers in the archives of Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Q. Our readers/viewers would love to know if you are working on any book or music album. Do tell us when we will see it in book shops or music shops.

A.  I am working on a book called 'My Ordinary Life' which consists of poems written during the Covid pandemic from early 2020 through the present.  During that period my mother died (not of Covid, she was 91) and I became more involved in the care of my father.  So I expore the theme of aging, something I am experiencing more profoundly as I enter my ‘70’s.

Q. Tell us about your favourite poets or writers. What is it about their writing that inspires you?

A.  Most of my favourite poets and writers are relatively unknown.  They are my friends and I follow their work keenly.  I am lucky to know a number of very talented writers including Murali Kamma who writes wonderful short stories on the Indian diaspora experience and Kamla Dutt who writes poetry in English and short stories in Hindi. Both are friends of long standing.  Of course I love Whitman and Dickinson and Cavafy and Mary Oliver.  Two of my favourite novels are One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

Q. Please give our upcoming poets and writers tips about how to hone their craft. Also, tell us how to stay happy, open and positive in a world reeling under the aftermath of a pandemic and the fallout of a war.

A.  Read and listen to poetry and stories.  Be playful.  Sometimes it is fun to turn a poem upside down and rewrite it backwards.  Spend lots of time in nature listening.  Birds and waterfalls can be great teachers.  Love yourself and surround yourself with people who genuinely respect you.  The rest is improvisation.  We are each living in very different circumstances.  One of my grandmothers used to say, “May as well make the best of it.  What else can I do?”

Thank you so much Franklin for talking to The Wise Owl. We all have benefitted greatly from this conversation. We wish you the best in all your creative pursuits and hope that with your varied creative contributions, the world will be a better place to live in.


Thank you for your wonderful questions!

Tete-a-Tete; Franklin Abbott: Feature Story

Some Works of Franklin Abbott

Tete-a-Tete; Franklin Abbott: Recent News

Pink Zinnia: Poems & Stories

FAbbott 1.jpg

Mortal Love: Selected Poems


Boyhood: Growing up Male

FAbbott 2.jpg

Don't Go Back to Sleep

bottom of page